By Daniel Strauss - 02/27/12 12:43 PM EST
Locked in a close battle for Tuesday’s Michigan primary, Mitt Romney traveled south to Florida on Sunday to attend the Daytona 500.
But while the auto-racing event provided him a chance to connect with blue-collar voters and play up his ties with Michigan’s auto industry, Romney denied his attendance was due to anything other than a love of cars and sports.
"No, it's a sign of a guy who loves cars," said Romney in Daytona Beach, according to The Associated Press. "And this has always been a place where American cars have shined. And a long history from Daytona being connected with Detroit, with Detroit cars, and with the spirit of America."
Romney said the 500 "combines a couple of things I like best, cars and sports" but he added that he was not as big a racing fan as some of the "most ardent fans."
"But I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners," Romney added.
Romney's comments came two days ahead of Tuesday’s Michigan vote, where polls show the former Massachusetts governor is in a tight race with Rick Santorum. On Friday a pair of new polls found Romney edging out Santorum in the Wolverine State.
Santorum did not attend the Daytona 500, but his campaign did sponsor the No. 26 car for the race there. The driver, Tony Raines, was considered a heavy underdog in the race.
Sunday’s race was postponed due to inclement weather, the first time the iconic auto event had been delayed in its 54-year history.